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Visiting the commemorative and actual locations of the geographical center of the United States.

Often when we’ve traveled, particularly in America we get side tracked on missions that seem in hindsight fairly pointless, but at the time we a drawn to them like a flies to a carcass. This proved to be the case when I discovered that there are markers to show the geographical center of the United States. Before the addition of Hawaii and Alaska to the union in 1959 the center of the contiguous states had been located in Lebanon in Kansas.

Lebanon had had this distinction since 1912 when Arizona and New Mexico joined the United States. But sadly it lost its only real claim to fame with the addition of the 49th and 50th States to the union, moving the axis 550 miles northwest by north.

The geographic center of the United States is a point approximately 20 mi (32 km) north of Belle Fourche, South Dakota (Lat. 44 58 02.07622(N) Long. 103 46 17.60283(W)).

The exact center is a moving target due to changing shorelines and other factors. The NGS coordinates land in an uninhabited parcel of private pastureland approximately 12 mi (19 km) east of the corner point where the South Dakota/Wyoming/Montana borders meet. According to the NGS data sheet, the actual marker is “set in an irregular mass of concrete 36 inches below the surface of the ground.”

Now not everyone can track these coordinates easily, unless you are packing a GPS. So, to make it easier for us they have conveniently set up a “proxy” marker close-by in the small town of Belle Fourche.

We of course, as part of our mission, felt the need to visit both sites.

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